The Vintage News, Halnaker, 2013
Large Format Portrait Photography.
Mainly heavy lifting with a bit of art thrown in.
I had been in email contact with The Vintage News about making their portrait since the beginning of the year and after delays caused by the recent bad weather finally got to shoot with them last week. I decided to use black and white film for this shoot, which is unusual for me as most of my recent personal work has been in colour, but I wanted the shot to look authentic and I still have something of a mental block when it comes to converting colour film to black and white in photoshop. I do it all the time with digital but something from my darkroom days whispers in my ear and I can’t get past the feeling that converting colour film is somehow ‘wrong’. Also black and white film is considerably cheaper (less than half the price) so my principles save me money!
I’ve been shooting people in the vintage scene for a while now, and I’ve always been very careful to treat the subject seriously. I use old tools but I like to think that the photography has a modern sensibility. The limitations of the camera mean that some of the same restrictions regarding subject movement apply just as they would have done 50 years ago. Luckily I have 125 iso film instead of 25 iso, but I was still shooting at 1/8 of a second in this gloomy winter light. I could open the lens up but I don’t really like to shoot more open than f11, especially with a group like this. In the end I plumped for f16 and told everyone to stand very still. All my pictures came out nice and sharp. Thanks I think in the most part to the fact that there was very little wind and no traffic nearby. I suppose I could have used a bit of flash, but frankly I had enough to carry as it was!
More portrait photography and heavy lifting in Southsea. I had a great time photographing Ally and she was very patient as I werestled images out of my 4×5 camera. Still loving Kodak Portra 160, simply an amazing piece of imaging technology
With a bit of warm weather and the optimism of springtime, it was time to shoot another portrait. This was shot out near Hove Lagoon away from the throngs of people that swarm into Brighton at the first glimpse of the sun. Coco DeVille is a burlesque performer but has a great sense of day to day style which is what I tried to capture here. The light was quite harsh so I had to hunt for a bit of open shade, but I think we still got the feeling of a pleasant spring day. For once I didn’t have to struggle with the light!
Shot near Chichester. You can see the full range of clothing at www.smellingofroses.co.uk
This was one of my first projects that I undertook after leaving Cardiff University. I’d just bought a medium format camera, belatedly taking the advice of my tutors, and started shooting enthusiatically. Looking back now I didn’t have much of a system, and perhaps I was a bit ignorant technically but youthful enthusiasm is a powerful driving force that pays little heed to this kind of thing. These days there is so much information about how to do something on the web it can put you off. Sometimes there’s no substitute for leaping in and giving it a try.
Kate is a friend of Fleur de Guerre, and a very talented illustrator. We met up in the Artist Residence Hotel in Brighton where she teaches a drawing course. It was wet and very windy so we had to shoot indoors, although carrying studio lights, a 5×4 and all the necessary do-dads from a nearby car park was rather hernia inducing. I did my best to recreate the light that was in the room with the flash, just with the eyebrow singeing intensity needed to shoot at f22 with a view camera. I think Kate was somewhat taken aback by the loud popping sound of studio lights at full tilt, but managed to stay around for this picture.
I met China in the older part of Portsmouth, this was shot near the Round tower part of a series of fortifications started in the 14oo’s and added to and altered up until the the 19th Century. China is a student in Portsmouth studying jewellery design (lots of vintage aficionados are arty types). We had the advantage of a nice bright day and an interesting location, and as usual drew the usual small crowd of interested onlookers. The shoot was over in about an hour, although it felt more like 10 minutes.
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Tagged Portrait, Vintage
I met Kitty last year, and we shot on the seafront at Brighton not far from where she lives. Taking a very large (5kg) camera to such a public place always makes picture taking something of a spectator sport, but despite a few onlookers and one rather mad foreign lady shouting ‘supermodel! supermodel!’ at the top of her voice as she walked past, we were able to get some nice shots. I don’t normally shoot in spots that have a vintage feel as well, I’m not aiming to recreate the 1940′s, but as this was close to where Kitty lived and had that seaside feel I felt it was right for this picture.
I met Alison on a very foggy Sunday morning in Woking. I was far too early, my fear of being late become almost as bad as lateness itself, and winter had certainly arrived. Alison looked immaculate even if the weather wasn’t. In gloomy weather, it feel like you have to wrestle the pictures out of a large format camera, especially when the fastest film I had was only 160 iso.
Simone, Hove 2012
I’ve been interested in the vintage scene for a few years now, mainly due to my many collaborations with Fleur De Guerre, but also because I thought it a very interesting comment on our times. There have been nostalgia driven fashion movements before – but at a time when technology moves ever faster – it is interesting that people are looking backwards for inspiriation. Perhaps it is because the future at the moment is a bleaker place than it has been for a generation. Maybe the recession inspires people to make a virtue out of shopping in second hand stores. There’s no doubting that what started at the grass roots is now growing into a fully fledged nostalgia industry.
To document this I’ve been using a view camera and techniques that would be recognisable to a photographer 100 years ago. I partly used this as an in – vintage subjects like the idea of being shot with a vintage camera – but also I like the idea of the work being rooted to over a century of photographic tradition. The links to the past help to quantify the present, the only real change is the use of colour film.
I also believe that the view camera has it’s own impact on how the sitter and photographer work together. The sitter cannot be caught unawares, or have their image made without their knowledge, each image is a product of collaboration and discussion, almost like a small performance. I think this theatricality lends itself to the formality of the images, the view camera records stillness rather than freezes motion, and these limitations impose a certain aesthetic. It is quite a democratic process; the photographer, sitter and even the camera all have their say.